Every Helicopter Is a Huey

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Every time the heroes in an action movie or TV show have to go somewhere by helicopter, chances are they'll be doing it in a member of the Bell Huey family. This is justified in Vietnam War movies: the UH-1D Iroquois is a symbol of US involvement in Vietnam, with over 7,000 of them seeing service. As a dedicated troop transport helicopter, it's a natural choice for The Squad - it's hard to roll out after a Lock and Load Montage in an MD-500 which only fits two actors. Their looks also help convey a tough, militaristic feel and suggest a military movie in the way a less easily-recognizable helicopter might not. In a gunship situation, expect two heavily-armed attack choppers flown by nameless pilots in formation with a Huey carrying a named character.

It's not only military action movies that favor the Huey. Their versatility and ready availability as surplus has them showing up pretty much every other time a helicopter's needed as well. Hence Bell 204/205/212 helicopters, all civilian Hueys, see very heavy usage, though certainly not to the extent that militarized Hueys do due to not having the same stranglehold on the market - or the public's imagination. Though in Real Life the US military started replacing Hueys with Black Hawks as long ago as 1979 and many other armed forces never used them at all, in the movies they still show up everywhere even now - even places they have no right to be. As a general rule:

  • Hueys have a 50-50 chance of showing up in a fully civilian movie, where Bell JetRangers and other models appear just as often;
  • A somewhat-military movie, or a movie featuring the military that Did Not Do the Research, will almost invariably have Hueys and follow this trope;
  • A well-researched military movie will only feature Hueys as appropriate - for instance, when dealing with the Vietnam era, or for Marine Twin Hueys.

Characters in action films are particularly prone to stumbling across them fuelled up, ready to fly and very often fully-armed. This is pretty unlikely now never mind Twenty Minutes Into the Future, but even there everyone will be flying Hueys. In action movies it's likely one of the cast will also know how to pilot one, however unlikely it is they'd have had any chance to learn how. In the few cases that the characters are not travelling in a Huey it's possible it'll still sound like they are, which is rather like suggesting every prop plane sounds like a Cessna. Perhaps because the UH-1 is so ubiquitous that it's just how helicopters are expected to sound.

When the Huey shows up appropriately - for example in period movies and situations where they'd likely be seen - it's just a sign the filmmakers did the research. Its appearance can also be justified as a deliberate stylistic choice where the moviemakers are trying to draw parallels between the events in the movie and The Vietnam War: the rest of the time this trope applies.

Less likely outside of live-action media, where the cost and availability of aircraft isn't an issue.

This trope is becoming less common as time goes on. More recent films tend to rely more on the Aérospatiale AS350 Squirrel (or its two-engine counterpart, the AS355 Twin Squirrel) as their go-to helicopter of choice. Its sleek look, especially when depicted in black, seems to lend itself to the slicker attitude of more modern action films. Examples include Live Free or Die Hard (which does feature some Hueys but primarily uses Squirrels), three out of the four live-action Resident Evil movies (Apocalypse, Extinction and Afterlife) and Shooter.

Compare Just Plane Wrong.

Examples of Every Helicopter Is a Huey include:

No aversions, please, otherwise this is going to turn into a list of helicopters in movies. Remember: this trope is about Hueys showing up as a generic helicopter in place of others.


  • Justified usage in pretty much every single movie about The Vietnam War ever made.
    • Several other types of helicopter—SH-3 Sea Kings, CH-47 Chinooks, CH-46 Sea Knights and OH-6 Cayuses—were also in regular use in Vietnam, though they're considerably less likely to show up in films.
  • The second Rambo movie features two Hueys, one operated by the Private Military Contractors in the bogus extraction, and one (inexplicably) as a gunship by the Russians.
    • The latter aircraft may have been on loan from the Vietnam People's Air Force, who inherited a number of ex-South Vietnamese UH-1s and still have about fifteen of them in service.
  • The high-tech helicopter gunships that attack Bruce Banner in the Ang Lee Hulk movie are not Hueys... but General Ross is co-ordinating the operation from one. This is rather like seeing F-35 Lightning IIs being led into battle by a prop-engined AC-47.
  • Justified in the movie adaptation of Clear and Present Danger when Jack Ryan buys a Huey to rescue a group of soldiers being held captive by a Colombian drug lord, after a morally dubious jungle sortie goes wrong. In the book, since it's a more proper (though no less morally dubious) government operation, the helicopter is a Pave Low.
  • In the second The Fast and the Furious movie, a Huey is seen flying low overhead in one of the shots for no reason at all.
  • The helicopter in The Matrix is a Bell 212, a Huey variant known in the military as a UH-1N Twin Huey.
  • In John Woo's Broken Arrow, the protagonists are attacked by Hueys.
  • The |Mission Impossible movie franchise also features Hueys, most specifically in the third movie where Ethan and his team escape in a Huey after rescuing a colleague who's been captured and interrogated. Given how amazingly well-equipped the IMF are in every other direction, it seems odd they don't have any more up-to-date aircraft to hand.
  • The ill-fated rescue chopper in Cliff Hanger is a Huey.
  • The second Under Siege movie has a train being hijacked by terrorists in a matched pair of Hueys, one of which apparently vanishes into thin air sometime before the climax. This appears to happen more because it'd be a really cool way to hijack a train than because it makes any logistical sense at all.
  • Hueys do not appear in the Steven Seagal vehicle Submerged. What does show up is a far smaller helicopter which inexplicably sounds like one on takeoff.
  • In Superman II, a TV news channel shows Zod and his allies being attacked by an entire squadron of them, in what's clearly a piece of recycled Vietnam-era Stock Footage.
    • And in Superman Returns, he also foils a bank robber attempting to make a rooftop getaway in a Huey, who's used the door-mounted minigun - which, inexplicably given that the robber is not a member of the US military and probably doesn't have access to military ordnance, is not only present but loaded - to hold off the cops. This doesn't work quite so well on Superman.
  • In the original Predator movie, Dutch and his team are flown into the jungle in Hueys. The actual Vietnam allegory comes later.
  • Despite being set Twenty Minutes Into the Future Terminator: Salvation features several combat-ready Hueys, or possibly the same one showing up and getting shot down over and over again.
  • The arrest of Jake and Elwood Blues requires at least one Huey to successfully accomplish.
  • In Short Circuit an officer refers to the helicopters as "choppers," but is told by a subordinate, "We call them hueys now." The superior officer is annoyed that he wasn't notified earlier of the nickname update. The gunship that appears at the end is not a Huey, however; it is a 206B JetRanger.
  • In Ransom, one of the villain's Mooks attempts to escape on a quadbike and is chased by a Huey carrying a team of policemen. It's never entirely explained exactly what the cops are doing there, still less why they've shown up in a Huey, unless it's that it'd look cool.
  • The Huey was the helicopter of choice for Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever: he has two of them on the oil rig he's using as a base.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, it's revealed that even in the 23rd Century people will know how to fly Hueys when Sulu uses one to deliver plexiglas.
  • Hueys appear repeatedly in Con Air, despite the late-90s setting. While the prisoners are boarding the plane, there are Hueys hovering over the airfield, and once the plane is hijacked a group of National Guardsmen chase after it in a Huey escorted by two smaller gunships.
  • Independence Day is generally pretty good as regards appropriate use of aircraft - not that this stops two Hueys from appearing to escort the doomed S-64 Skycrane 'Welcome Wagon'. They explode moments later when the aliens open fire, seemingly having shown up simply so they could be blown up.
    • Will Smith later commandeers a Huey from the Area 51 base to go searching for his missing girlfriend and her son.
  • A particularly glaring example in the second Fantastic Four movie, The Rise of the Silver Surfer, when the team are seen being flown over the Thames by a military unit in a pair of Hueys. Doubly wrong in that the US military have long since phased out the Huey and the British military never used them at all, begging the question of where on earth the team even found them. Did they bring the helicopters with them?
  • Very nearly the case with Black Hawk Down. The negotiations to borrow Black Hawk helicopters from the US military took so long that filming had already started a month before the deal was finalized. Repainted Hueys were on hand to be used instead in case the deal fell through. Director Ridley Scott said that its fortunate they were able to use the right helicopters, since model is right there in the title of the film, and Hueys don't look anything like Black Hawks.
  • In Underworld Evolution, even helicopters that aren't Hueys turn out to embody this trope. A modified SA 360 Dauphin, a noticeably smaller make and model of helicopter, is used in long-shots - though nobody appears to have told the Foley editors as the ship sounds like a Huey throughout - but when it lands and The Squad pile out of the back, they're very obviously getting out of a Huey.
  • Sucker Punch proves that even in the nebulous 'it's the 1950s, kinda' period the movie's set in, Hueys will be the number-one choice of fantasy rotary-wing aircraft. In one of Baby Doll's dream sequences, the helicopter the girls use to assault a train on an alien planet is a Huey.
  • While actual Huey's would be rather out of place in Avatar, the Scorpion VTOL used extensively by the humans is remarkedly similar, right down to the choice between a missile-carrying gunship configuration or a troop transport configuration with M60 Expies to be fired by the passengers.

Live-Action TV

  • In Chris Ryan's Strike Back the team are shown flying in a Huey, despite the fact that the British military favor the Westland Lynx. Certainly they've never deployed them in Iraq, where the show is set.
  • In Combat Hospital, the primary MEDEVAC helicopter for the Kandahar Airfield Role 3 is some kind of Huey. While the Canadian Forces continue to use Twin Hueys, at least one pilot for the helo is American, and the characters most commonly using on the helo are US Air Force Pararescuemen, who would not be using Hueys.
  • Variant in Magnum, P.I.: the "experimental attack helicopter" that a Brainwashed and Crazy T.C. steals in one episode is clearly a Hughes 500D with guns and rockets stuck on it. Amusingly enough, the 500D is the same chopper T.C. flies in his day job. One wonders why he didn't notice.
  • In The Walking Dead, despite taking place in the mid-2000s, the US Army is only seen employing Hueys.


Western Animation

  • In spite of its otherwise high-tech setting, the only US military helicopters ever to appear on Transformers Prime are Hueys. For example, Agent Fowler flies one twice, in spite of also having access to the cutting edge F-35 Lightning II jet. Weirdly, though, the Hueys on the show seem to be some kind of fictional gunship variant that mounts the M230 chaingun from the Apache.